Slight increase in diabetes prevalence despite 5-year war against disease

For the period of 2019 to 2020, the crude prevalence of diabetes was 9.5 per cent, an increase from 8.8 per cent in 2017. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's five-year war against diabetes has not made a dent in reducing the disease's prevalence rates here, with the crude prevalence of diabetes showing a slight increase for the period of 2019 to 2020.

In that period, the crude prevalence of diabetes was 9.5 per cent, an increase from 8.8 per cent in 2017. A stable trend was seen after an age adjustment was made.

These statistics were shared on Thursday (Nov 18) in a report of the latest National Population Health Survey, which was carried out between July 2019 and March last year. It comprised interviews with around 6,000 people, as well as health examinations for 5,000 people.

The report also showed that chronic diseases continue to be a concern in Singapore.

The prevalence of hypertension, or high blood pressure, showed an increasing trend over the years, even after adjusting for the possible effect of an ageing population.

From 2019 to 2020, more than one in three (35.5 per cent) had hypertension, and about four in 10 (39.1 per cent) had high blood cholesterol, compared with about one in four (24.2 per cent) and slightly more than one in three (35.5 per cent), respectively, in 2017.

More people also became obese or had high-risk body mass index (BMI), and fewer engaged in sufficient total physical activity.

In addition, more than one in 10 Singapore residents were found to be obese, and more than two in 10 had high-risk BMI. This is a slight increase from 2017.

The prevalence of obesity and high-risk BMI was also more common among adults aged 30 to 59.

Fewer Singapore residents engaged in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week last year, compared with 2017, despite the increase in the number of Singapore residents engaging in leisure-time regular exercise last year.

Leisure-time regular exercise refers to the participation in any sports or exercise for at least 20 minutes each time for at least three days a week.

The Health Promotion Board encourages Singaporeans to aim for 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every week as regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, prolong life and enhance the quality of life.

The study also noted that there was a slight drop in chronic disease screening rates, while more people were being screened for colorectal cancer and breast cancer.

Last year, 63 per cent of Singapore residents aged 40 to 74 with no previous diagnosis of diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol were screened for all three conditions within the recommended frequency.

This was a slight decrease from 66.4 per cent in 2017.

Conversely, screening rates for colorectal cancer rose last year (41.1 per cent), compared with 2017 (35 per cent). Similarly, screening rates of breast cancer went up in 2020, while screening rates for cervical cancer remained stable.

An aspect that Singapore has done well was influenza and pneumococcal vaccination coverage.

Flu vaccination coverage among those aged 18 to 74 rose from 13.1 per cent in 2017 to 17 per cent in 2020. While vaccination rates increased across all age groups, adults aged 18 to 29, and 60 to 74, had the highest flu vaccination coverage.

Similarly, pneumococcal vaccination coverage among those aged 65 to 74 increased from 11.9 per cent in 2017 to 14.4 per cent last year.

The crude prevalence of poor mental health among Singapore residents here also did not change. Younger adults aged 18 to 29 made up the highest proportion of people with poor mental health.

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